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Full text of "Sketch of Lakhota, a Siouan Language. In: Handbook of North American Indians, Vol 17: Languages"

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Lakhota is one dialect of a language widely spoken in 
the northern plains. It is not easy to find a universally 
acceptable designation for this language, given the fact 
that there is no unambiguous native name for it. 
Nineteenth and early twentieth-century scholars 
(Stephen R. Riggs, Franz Boas) used the term Dakota 
both for the language and for its eastern dialect. This is 
obviously awkward and liable to confusion. Here the 
designation Sioux is used for the language, reserving 
Dakota for the dialect. Many speakers of the language 
dislike the term Sioux because of its foreign origin (cp. 
Goddard 1984), its use primarily by non-Indians, and 
because some do not recognize that all the dialects rep- 
resent the same language. 

The Sioux language is the first or second language of 
about 10,000-12,000 people in the northern plains and 
contiguous areas of the United States and the Canadian 
prairie provinces. Some speakers of the language are to 
be found in other places in both countries as well, such 
as Los Angeles and Toronto. This is one of the largest 
surviving native language communities in North 
America. 

Lakhota (Teton Sioux) is one of five closely related 
dialects. Parks (1990), based on extensive surveys of 
all the Sioux-speaking reservations and reserves in the 
late 1970s, identifies these as Santee-Sisseton, Teton, 
Yankton- Yanktonai, Assiniboine, and Stoney. The 
easternmost of these is Santee-Sisseton. Nineteenth- 
century scholars, following native usage, referred to 
this dialect as Dakota. The westernmost of the dialects, 
Tetouf is designated by its native name, Lakhota or 
Lakota. Speakers of the Assiniboine and Stoney 
dialects call their language Nakoda. The remaining 


dialect, Yankton- Yanktonai, also located geographi- 
cally between the Santee-Sisseton and Teton dialects, 
shows affinities with both Dakota and Nakoda, 
although speakers call their language Dakota. 

Each of these dialects has reservation- or reserve- 
based subdialects, some quite different from the others. 
The subdialects of Teton Sioux oppose the southwest 
reservations (Pine Ridge and Rosebud) to those on the 
Missouri River (Cheyenne River, Lower Brule, 
Standing Rock). The populations on these reservations 
reflect earlier band divisions among the Teton Sioux, 
so the present linguistic differences quite likely reflect 
differences older than the reservation period, which 
dates only from the last third of the nineteenth century. 

The Sioux language, in one or another of its dialects, 
but chiefly Dakota, has been written for over 150 years 
by missionaries, anthropologists, educators, and native 
speakers, using a variety of writing systems, all based 
on the Roman alphabet. Not surprisingly, there exists a 
sizable corpus of Sioux writings (see de Reuse 1987, 
1990), some favoring a broad rendering of the sounds 
of the language, others a fairly narrow rendering. In 
most cases there is no indication with or in the docu- 
ment of the intended degree of phonological exacti- 
tude, although most are more broad than narrow. 


Rood, David S. and Allan R. Taylor. 1996. Sketch of Lakhota, a Siouan 
Language. In: Goddard, Ives (ed.) Handbook of North American Indians 
Vol 17: Languages. Washington: Smithsonian Institution.